New Anthology, Image and Likeness, Puts Life Into the Theology of the Body

Image and Likeness: Short Reads Reflecting the Theology of the Body, with a foreword by Damon OwensMy latest from Catholic Mom:

If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings? What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift? What does life require of us when we give most deeply?

Full Quiver Publishing brings you this moving collection of poetry and prose, featuring some of today’s brightest Catholic literary voices, including award-winning authors Dena Hunt, Arthur Powers, Michelle Buckman, Leslie Lynch, Theresa Linden, and many more. By turns edgy and sweet, gritty and deft, but always courageous and honest, the works contained in Image and Likeness explore countless facets of human love—and human failure. Readers of Image and Likeness will experience in a variety of ways how humanity, in flesh as well as spirit, lives out the image and likeness of a God who created human intimacy to bring forth both our future and to illustrate our ultimate meaning as human persons.

When asked where the idea for the book came from, editor and publisher Ellen Gable said, “I got the idea a few years back after I read a short story from another member of the Catholic Writers Guild.  When I sent out an initial request to other members of the Guild, I only received five stories but one of the authors, Erin McCole Cupp, said she had some ideas for a few Theology of the Body-themed short stories.”

Editor and contributor Erin McCole Cupp, says: “I had two separate ideas I’d been batting around for a while, and I knew they were short story ideas and not novels, but I couldn’t imagine what to do with them. Ellen’s request gave me the kick in the pants to write both “Good for Her” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Sunday Brunch.”  Once I had them written, I offered — okay, I begged — Ellen to let me do some of the legwork on this.  I loved the idea of an anthology, a space where authors and readers could come together to see both the dark and the light side of living TOB in a fallen world.

Ellen Gable continues, “When Erin asked me last year if we could release the book on St. John Paul II’s feast day of October 22, I thought that was a perfect date.  However, I had no idea that that would also be the day my son and his fiancée would choose for their wedding day.  So while we were in the midst of last-minute wedding preparations, I was also trying to get this book ready for publication.”

To find additional contributors, Erin and Ellen took two approaches.  Erin clarifies, “We put a call for submissions on the Image and Likeness Anthology page, but we also asked some authors in our networks if they would be interested in contributing either something already written or something written specifically for this project.”

Damon Owens, International Theology of the Body expert, wrote the foreword.  “I am indebted to the authors and poets of Image and Likeness for their gifted storytelling of real life “ugly.” This book isn’t afraid to hold our gaze into the darkness of sin, doubt, and brokenness before the resolution of redemption. Some of these stories are heartbreaking to read precisely because I know this is true. Some of them I will never forget because of their unexpected turn to redemption. Through and through, this is an artistic instruction in TOB that shows us the wounds needing the balm, the balm applied, and the health and wholeness of men and women healed. And, like every well-told story, its penetrating TOB truths will influence even the most reluctant reader.”

When asked who should be reading Theology of the Body fiction, Erin answered, “Since TOB is just the truth, and all fiction is supposed to be aimed at truth, I think all readers should be reading TOB fiction.  On the flip side of that coin, when it comes down to it, I believe pretty strongly that all fiction should be TOB fiction.  Art, if it is to be any good, must serve truth.  If it’s just a wad of lies in a tasty package, then it’s not art; it’s propaganda.  What drives me most to write and share TOB fiction is that it ought to be nothing more than a candle in the darkness, a light down the dark hall of living in this culture that is so bound up with lies we can’t even tell the difference between love and hate anymore.  TOB draws a clear line between the two, and that line is truth.  As I always tell my kids, ‘You can believe what you want, but that doesn’t make it reality.’  TOB fiction is a window into reality. As the contributors show so successfully, I think, in Image and Likeness, reality is harsh.  Reality is full of tough choices.  Reality is full of consequences.  But reality is true, so we do ourselves no favors if we believe something other than reality.  The fiction we read is a school for reality.  If we school our hearts and souls in lies, then we are not preparing ourselves to live in truth.”

Readers should be aware that the anthology includes mature themes, content and language.

For more information and for interviews and bios of the contributors, check out the Image and Likeness page on WordPress.

It’s available on Kindle at this link and in paperback at this link.

Special thanks to Erin McCole Cupp for writing the synopsis for the anthology!

Image and Likeness Now Available!

Image and Likeness: Short Reads Reflecting the Theology of the Body, with a foreword by Damon OwensImage and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body is now available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon. This anthology is edited by Erin McCole Cupp and myself and both of us have stories included in the collection.

If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings? What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift? What does life require of us when we give most deeply?

Full Quiver Publishing brings you this moving collection of poetry and prose, featuring some of today’s brightest Catholic literary voices, including award-winning authors Dena Hunt, Arthur Powers, Michelle Buckman, Leslie Lynch, Theresa Linden, and many more. By turns edgy and sweet, gritty and deft, but always courageous and honest, the works contained in Image and Likeness explore countless facets of human love—and human failure. Readers of Image and Likeness will experience in a variety of ways how humanity, in flesh as well as spirit, lives out the image and likeness of a God who created human intimacy to bring forth both our future and to illustrate our ultimate meaning as human persons.

With a Foreword by international Theology of the Body voice Damon Owens, Image and Likeness puts life and breath into St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in ways that readers won’t soon forget.

Warning: mature themes, content and language.

Reviews:

Barb writes: “What, exactly, are “literary reflections on the Theology of the Body?” They’re stories and poems about how we live, and how we live our lives in relationship with each other, with our bodies, with our souls, and with God. It’s not some complicated, esoteric subject. Because it’s an anthology, there’s something for everyone, from detective stories to poetry to tales of family life that range from the harrowing to the uplifting. These stories and poems are about life. Like life, they are not always neat and tidy and packaged in a pretty box with a crisply-tied ribbon. I’ve come to expect just this from other work from Full Quiver Publishing: this publisher does not shy away from difficult subjects and situations in its commitment to promoting the culture of life and the Church’s teaching on marriage and family.”

An Open Book Family says: “Recommended for reading, reflection, discussion, and even entertainment. A gritty but beautiful introduction not only to the Theology of the Body as it is lived (or rejected), but also to the breadth and promise of Catholic fiction being written by contemporary authors. These shorts are accessible to any careful reader, whether familiar with the Theology of the Body or not.”

Readers can buy the paperback book on Amazon at this link.

It’s available on Kindle at this link.

Amazing Results With the Rosary

Rosary“The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.”
St. Josemaria Escriva

Although I grew up in a Catholic family, I learned how to say the Rosary at Catholic school. My father often said the Rosary privately, but we never recited it as a family and I rarely said it on my own before the age of 11. One evening, however, my parents were involved in a violent argument. It was my first experience at being “amazed at the results” of the powerful weapon of the holy rosary. The following is another excerpt from my novel, Emily’s Hope. It’s based on actual events and is a true illustration of Our Lady’s powerful intercession.

I listen as my parents are fighting again, fighting over bills they can’t pay. Each time my mom yells, my dad yells louder. Dad starts to throw things, not at Mom, just throwing things. I’m scared. It makes me feel anxious to see the two people I love most in the world screaming at each other. Don’t they love each other, I ask myself. Why won’t they stop yelling?

Dad just said something about moving out. Oh, God, please, I don’t want my dad to move out. Mom says good. Oh, please, Mom, don’t say that. I look at both of them but they don’t seem to see me or the panic in my eyes. They only glare at each other.

Dad goes upstairs. I run after him and watch as he gets a suitcase out and starts putting clothes in it.

God, why won’t you stop him? I pass by my bedroom and notice my rosary sitting on the bedside table. I grab it, sit down on my bed, and begin saying the rosary. As I say each Hail Mary, I plead with Our Lady, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” Please, Our Lady, don’t let my Dad walk out.

As I’m saying another Hail Mary, Dad walks by my room and doesn’t notice that I’m even there. He stomps down the steps. I can’t hear if he says bye, but I hear the door slam shut.

“Oh, God, please, make him come back.” I continue saying the rosary, each Hail Mary becoming more fervent than the last. I pray until my heart is bursting. Please, God, listen to my prayer.

I begin saying the Hail Holy Queen prayer and suddenly, I hear the door open downstairs. Without finishing, I stand at the top of the stairs and I see that my dad is standing at the doorway. Mom walks over to him. At first, they’re silent.

Then, my dad starts to cry. “I can’t leave you. I can’t leave my family.” He and Mom embrace.

I begin to cry. Thank you, God, and thank you, Our Lady, for bringing my daddy back.

My parents remained married until my father’s death eight years later. He was buried with his rosary in his hands.

Emily’s Hope is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. The novel’s website includes reviews, an excerpt, a synopsis and a radio interview.

Copyright 2016 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Feast of the Holy Rosary – Prayers of Love

photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

Since today is the Feast of the Holy Rosary, I’d like to share an article I wrote and that has also been published on Catholic 365. “When lovers are together, they spend hours and hours repeating the same thing: I love you! What is missing in the people who think the Rosary monotonous, is Love.” Sister Lucia of Fatima

I have been a Catholic for my entire life, but it is only in the last 30 or so years that I have had a devotion to the Holy Rosary. I attended Catholic schools until seventh grade. As a teenager, I would have identified myself as Catholic, but between television and secular influences, I didn’t totally embrace my faith until after I was married. This was only because my husband insisted that we refrain from using contraception during our marriage.

As we dialogued back and forth in those few months before our wedding day, I didn’t know or understand why the Church taught that married couples shouldn’t use contraception to avoid pregnancy. In fact, I remember thinking that the Church just ought to come out of the Dark Ages and get more in line with the modern world.

In the end, however, I decided to trust my husband (and the Church). In the next year, we read Humanae Vitae, as well as other church documents, and I became fully convinced that the Church was indeed speaking the truth when she declared that contraception was a grave sin. Before we were married, we learned Natural Family Planning and we are now a CCL NFP Teaching Couple Specialist (and have been teaching NFP for 33 years).

During that first year of our marriage, a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to our door. My husband and I welcomed them and dialogued with them. Most of their questions centered on Mary: “Why do Catholics worship Mary?” “Why do you say such a monotonous repetitive prayer?” “Why is Mary so important to Catholics?” First, we gently explained to them that Catholics don’t worship Mary; we honor her. As for the other questions, I realized that I didn’t really know the answers, so I did some research.

To the question “Why is Mary so important to Catholics,” what I found out could probably fill an entire book. However, my own thumbnail answer is this: Jesus honored his mother. We, as Catholics, are called imitate Christ. He honored his mother and we should do the same. Also, as Jesus hung on the cross, He gave his mother to the whole world when He said to John, “Behold your mother.”

Mary is indeed our mother and, as our mother, she desires us to be closer to her Son. The Rosary is the ideal way for us to become closer to Him, because as we say the repetitive prayers (with love), we are meditating on His life.

I have found that saying the Rosary has brought me closer to my husband and to Christ. Even after 34 years of marriage, we continue to say “I love you,” just as we continue to say the rosary together, with love.

Copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

EWTN Bookmark Interview With Catholic Writers Guild Authors

Last year, four authors from the Catholic Writers Guild were interviewed at the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show in Somerset, New Jersey.  The interviews were just aired on EWTN yesterday.  Here is the video of the entire show.  I am up first, followed by John Desjarlais, Karen Kelly Boyce, and Lisa Mladinich.

Catholic Writers Conference 2016

Check out this wonderful video for the Catholic Writers Guild upcoming conference:

Prominent Catholic Writers to Speak at Conference in Schaumburg, Illinois

Contact: Ann Lewis, 317-755-2693

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., June 16, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — Several prominent Catholic writers will speak at the eighth annual Catholic Writers Conference LIVE taking place July 27-29 at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois (near Chicago.) Sponsored by the Catholic Writers Guild and the Catholic Marketing Network (CMN) and held in conjunction with CMN’s annual retailer trade show, the Catholic Writers Conference LIVE provides Catholic writers with a prime opportunity to meet and share their faith with editors, publishers, fellow writers, and bookstore owners from across the globe. The theme of this year’s conference is “Openness to God’s Will.”

Presenters include keynote speaker Margaret Rose Realy (A CATHOLIC GARDENER’S SPIRITUAL ALMANAC), authors Gary Zimak (FROM FEAR TO FAITH), Karina Fabian (GREATER TREASURES), Lisa Mladinich (TRUE RADIANCE), Lisa Hendey (THE GRACE OF YES), Ellen Gable (STEALING JENNY) and many others.

The conference will give authors an opportunity to meet personally with publishing professionals and pitch their writing projects. Some participating publishers are Ignatius Press, Ave Maria Press, and Servant Books. In addition, attendees have the opportunity to sign up for a fiction critique workshop with award-wining short fiction writer Arthur Powers (A HERO FOR THE PEOPLE), a non-fiction critique group with Nancy Ward (joyalive.net) and attend writing workshops with novelists John Desjarlais (SPECTER) and Michelle Buckman (RACHEL’S CONTRITION). Michelle Buckman will also be offering one-on-one critique sessions. Information for all these events can be found on the conference website.

The Catholic Writers Guild, a religious non-profit organization affiliated with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, sponsors this conference in July, an online conference in March, and a writers’ retreat in October to further its mission of promoting Catholic literature. CWG President, Joseph Wetterling, says, “The Guild exemplifies the Catholic ‘both/and’ with writers from every part of the world, in every genre, and from every walk of life. We’re diverse in personality and style but united in our loyalty and love of the Catholic faith. The Catholic Writers Conference Live is a unique opportunity to come together in fellowship and sharpen each other toward our united mission: a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters.”

Registration costs $80 and $45 for students. CWG Members receive a 10% discount. There’s also a discounted registration combined with a CWG membership. To register or for more information, go to www.catholicwritersconference.com.

Fasting and Peace

copyright 2013 Ellen Hrkach please do not use without permission

copyright 2013 Ellen Hrkach please do not use without permission

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”   The opening words to the song “Let There Be Peace on Earth” are simple but profound.

Of course, everyone wants peace: no wars, no bickering, no slavery, no oppression etc. However, when we start arguing with someone about an insignificant topic, or when we don’t want to admit we’re wrong, or when we have a hard time forgiving someone, it’s hard to find that peace within ourselves.

The truth is that peace does begin “with me.”

How can we cultivate this peace in our hearts?

It might seem like a simple answer, but regular fasting (together with prayer) cultivates peace in our hearts. Fasting invites the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others.

Let’s take for example, forgiving someone. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are all called to be merciful and forgive those who have hurt or offended us.

But what if the offense is grievous? Say, like torture, abuse, rape or murder? And what if the person we must forgive is not repentant?

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus didn’t give any exceptions to this rule. We will be forgiven as we forgive those who trespass against us. We are still called to be merciful and to forgive regardless of the offense. We are all called to have peace in our hearts. Forgiveness and showing mercy to others helps heal our hearts and souls. However, forgiving someone, especially those who have grievously harmed us, is not easy and it is impossible without God’s grace. Fasting opens our hearts to this beautiful grace and peace.

The testimony below from one of the Live the Fast community members might help to illustrate this:

“Throughout my life, a relative of mine was verbally abusive to me and to others in our family. Eventually, she was diagnosed with a mental illness and, with medication, she was able to stop being verbally abusive. When she got older and began exhibiting signs of dementia, however, it seemed like she was falling back into her former caustic verbal abuse. I had thought that I had forgiven her, but realized that I never did forgive her for all the cruel things she had said and done to me. At that point, I had already been fasting for several months and someone had suggested that I fast and pray for this relative in order to help me to forgive her. So I fasted and prayed for her and eventually, I realized that I had been able to forgive her and to speak about and treat her with the utmost love and kindness. I don’t think I could have done that without praying and fasting for her.”

Lent is a time of change and sacrifice. Fasting and prayer together will help cultivate peace and forgiveness in our hearts. Fasting will invite the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others.

Fasting is not an easy practice with our society’s current tendency to overindulge. However, if you can do penitential acts during Lent, if you can fast during Lent, then you can fast all year round!

For more information on how to get started with fasting, check out our website (http://livethefast.org) Always check with your physician before beginning any fasting routine.

To sign up for LTF’s free biweekly fasting newsletter, click here.

Live the Fast is a Roman Catholic Apostolate that is focused on bringing more awareness to the discipline of fasting by offering educational resources on prayer and fasting, a prayer community that will inspire one to live the fast and providing nutritious fasting breads. (Priests and religious receive fasting breads and resources free of charge.)